Playwriting and Dramaturgy I

DRAM 251/3.0


DRAM 251 is a hands-on introduction to the craft of playwriting. As there appears to be no better way to learn to write plays than by writing plays, you will write the first draft of an original one-act play of 10 to 25 minutes in duration, on a topic of your choice, under the guidance of the instructor and with input from the instructor, the teaching assistant, and fellow students.

You will submit a few pages per week of your developing script, to be read by fellow students and instructors, who will then offer written critiques and suggestions. This means, of course, that you are also expected to read some of your classmates’ work, and offer responses, including suggestions for improvement or further development.

That is the central activity in this course. However, in addition, there will be weekly video lectures by Prof. Lazarus on such topics as building a plot, writing dialogue, understanding theme and message, working with such concepts of action, motivation and subtext, and expressively exploiting the limitations of the live stage. There will be online discussion forums in which you are invited to respond to the ideas put forth in the video lectures.

There are also four other writing assignments, which you are expected to complete during the term.

Learning Outcomes

After completing DRAM 251, you will be able to write a play – which includes being able to:

  1. construct a believable and engaging plot;
  2. write believable and engaging dialogue for multi-faceted characters;
  3. explain how the text of a play can conceal and reveal emotional subtext;
  4. exploit the supposed “limitations” of the live theatre to their advantage, using symbolism and theatrical techniques to convey a story;
  5. accept dramaturgical advice from others in a professional way, unencumbered by shame or defensiveness, and use it in their writing;
  6. work collaboratively with directors, actors, designers and stage managers in script workshops and in rehearsal.

Also, you will assist in the playwriting of others, which includes being able to:

  1. create, and recognize and analyze the inner plot structure of plays written by others; and,
  2. critically analyze playwriting by others, and offer useful and coherent dramaturgical support.